As a follow-up to my article of the FBB Sailor satellite system (from Inmarsat). I wanted to let you know that I went ahead at the last minute and had the FBB 150 system installed as a backup to the vSat system in Cape Town. Yes, I chickened out depending on the Iridium phone for our primary weather-gathering device for our passage from the South Atlantic up to Cape Verde where I hoped the vSat system would take over (call me crazy but I was vindicated as you will read in another article).
I made the decision to put a FBB 150 system on as I found out you can avoid most of the aggravation I've had with Inmarsat. The solution is to buy a SIM card along with data cards in increments of 100 or 200 units ($100 or $200). I thought they only had their annual contracts. When I found out I could control my costs better with a single data card purchase I went for the installation.
This avoids their atrocious $220 per month contract fee and allows you to pay for what you actually use. One caveat is that Inmarsat still 'pokes' you by stealing 14 units each week that your data card is activated. I'm not sure why except they are greedy but... it turns out to be way cheaper if you sit in port for a while then do a big passage (purchasing a card for that passage) as opposed to a regular grab-from-your-pocket of $220 each month whether you use the unit or not.
On our passage from Cape Town to the Med. I used the FBB almost exclusively (read my other article upcoming about problems with the vSat system in actual use). In conjunction with a firewall system, I used less than 200 units of FBB time all the way from Cape Town to the Med over the course of 45 days. I updated this blog, gathered weather several times a day and handled personal and crew email so we weren't shy about using the internet.
Compared to my passage from Antigua to Horta in 2011 where I used $600 of FBB time in two weeks, this $200 charge for 45 days was quite a bit more reasonable.
So...the moral of the story is that you absolutely must have some kind of firewall software (or hardware) on the computer that is accessing the internet over FBB or vSat and you have to have an email system that compresses your email such as XGate from Global Marine Network.
See my other articles about Email,weather and gribs at sea using Software to learn about the firewall stuff. It's absolutely crucial to controlling your costs offshore.
I can now confirm from actual experience what I've written about. You can substantially reduce your costs and still have good weather information and email contact while far offshore, you just have to be smart about it.
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